Take 3: Summer Magic Review (A Month Without the Code — #5)

For a few years now, I have wanted to watch the film, Summer Magic. It’s a title that I had never heard of until I came across it on Pinterest. Even after I recorded the movie on my DVR, I didn’t make the time to watch it. Because of the A Month Without the Code Blogathon, I decided to include Summer Magic in my roster of films! This is the third movie of Hayley Mills’ that I’ve reviewed this year. I liked both The Moon-Spinners and The Trouble with Angels. When I read the movie’s tagline on their DVD cover, I saw the word “mystery” and was excited to see what kind of story would be told. I also discovered that Burl Ives was one of the stars of the film! Prior to watching Summer Magic, I had never seen Burl act. However, I was familiar with who Burl was as a singer, as I’ve heard his versions of various Christmas songs. So, I was curious to see if he was given a significant part in the movie or a cameo role where he got to portray himself. Well, what are we waiting for? Let’s find out in this review!

Summer Magic poster
Summer Magic poster created by Walt Disney Production and Buena Vista Distribution. © Disney•Pixar. All rights reserved. Image found at https://movies.disney.com/summer-magic.

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: When it comes to films starring Hayley Mills, I, as an audience member, have never been disappointed! That’s because she has the acting talents to lead a film! Hayley had such a pleasant on-screen presence in Summer Magic, bringing her character, Nancy, to life with charm and likability. As I said in my introduction, I had never seen Burl Ives act before. His portrayal of Osh Popham was better than I expected it to be! He was so expressive in his acting performance and his singing performance could do no wrong. Deborah Walley is an actress that I am not familiar with. Despite this, I was entertained by her performance! Julia was such an interesting character to watch on screen. Deborah’s ability to pull off a well-rounded performance helped her achieve that goal. The rest of the cast was good as well. Because of the believability they brought to their roles, all of the characters appeared and felt like real-life people!

 

The music: If you’re going to cast Burl Ives in a film, you have to have him sing at least one song. Burl actually sang two songs in Summer Magic and both performances were really good! His first song “Ugly Bug Ball” not only featured music that reflected the story’s time period, but it also featured music that resembled when the film was released. Burl’s second song, “On the Front Porch”, as well as the rest of the music, felt like it belonged in the world of the early 1900s, when Summer Magic takes place. This helped the movie be immersive and bring this cinematic world to life.

 

The historical accuracy: Another aspect of Summer Magic that made the movie feel immersive was the historical accuracy of the overall production. For historical fiction stories, this aspect is so important because it provides a sense of authenticity. From the costumes to the architecture, everything seemed like it was brought back directly from that time period. Even things as simple as hairstyles helped the movie’s creative team realize their cinematic idea. Anytime I see a period film that appears and feels historically accurate, it gives me the impression the creative team behind that film not only knows what they’re doing, but that they care about the project they’re making. This is exactly how I felt about Summer Magic.

Note_lines_horizontal1
String of musical notes image created by Freepik at freepik.com. <a href=’https://www.freepik.com/free-vector/pentagram-vector_710290.htm’>Designed by Freepik</a> <a href=”https://www.freepik.com/free-photos-vectors/background”>Backgroundvector created by Freepik</a>. Image found at freepik.com.

What I didn’t like about the film:

No “magic” and “mystery”: On the DVD cover for Summer Magic, the film’s tagline says “A Season Of Love, Music, And Mystery”. However, “magic” and “mystery” are nowhere to be found. Since The Moon-Spinners was created by the same studio as Summer Magic and since The Moon-Spinners was released the year after Summer Magic, I assumed the latter would have a mystery that was more light-hearted than the aforementioned title. Sadly, this plot didn’t leave any room for a mystery to be told. Even though this movie is called Summer Magic, there is no “magic” that is usually found in Disney films. When it comes to films from this particular studio, “magic” is not just coming from the things that happen on screen. It’s the way that the film makes an audience feel. For me, Summer Magic did not make me feel this way.

 

A basic plot: Because of what I just said, I thought there was going to be a mystery featured in this film’s plot. That didn’t happen, which caused the plot to be too basic for my liking. The story was also straight-forward, leaving no room for intrigue. Even when there was a chance for the narrative to have a sense of intrigue, those chances ended before they could begin. A perfect example is when Osh Popham was telling Nancy and her mother about the previous homeowner’s painting, only for his wife, Mariah, to confront him about his lie moments later.

 

Lack of musical numbers: For movie musicals, there’s, usually, at least one musical number. This scene will feature singing and dancing, but will also be presented as a grand spectacle. Summer Magic never had a scene like this. In fact, anytime a song was incorporated into the film, the characters would, mostly, sing the song while sitting down. Because Disney’s forte is musicals, I was quite surprised by the lack of musical numbers in this film. Since Mary Poppins was released the year after Summer Magic, I’m wondering if the first movie received more attention and financing from the studio, possibly viewing Summer Magic as an afterthought?

A Month Without the Code banner
A Month Without the Code Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2019/07/31/announcing-amonthwithoutthecode65/.

My overall impression:

As of August 2019, I have seen four of Hayley’s Mills films in their entirety. For the most part, I have enjoyed these movies. But, if I were to rank them, Summer Magic would be at the bottom of the list. That’s because the film itself was just ok. Since there was no “mystery” or “magic” in the story, the film’s plot wasn’t as intriguing as I hoped it would be. Despite the fact that the movie’s tagline promised that there would be music, it wasn’t a musical in the typical sense. But the film did have its merit, such as the acting and the historical accuracy of the project. It’s a film that I can’t fully recommend, but not completely dissuade people from seeing. Like I said about The Nun’s Story, Summer Magic is one of the “cleaner” films in A Month Without a Code! While there are a few things that would need to change, this film could be “breenable”. These things are:

 

  • There is some language in Summer Magic that would need to be rewritten or removed. This is because some of the words that the characters said were unpleasant. One example is when Nancy is trying to put up wallpaper in the house. When her mother expresses her doubts about whether Nancy is capable of completing the task on her own, Nancy makes a statement like “Any idiot can do it”.

 

  • There were three lines in the song, “Ugly Bug Ball”, that I was very surprised were featured in a Disney film. The lines are highlighted in bold print:

 

“Then our caterpillar saw a pretty queen

She was beautiful in yellow, black and green

He said, “Would you care to dance?”

Their dancing led to romance.

And she sat upon his caterpillar knees

And he gave his caterpillar queen a squeeze

Soon they’ll honeymoon

Build a big cocoon

Thanks to the ugly bug ball”

 

Because of how suggestive these lines sound, they would need to be written.

 

  • During the movie, Julia and Nancy develop a crush on Charles Bryant, a recent college graduate who comes to their small town as a school teacher. Julia admits that she completed “finishing school”, so I’m guessing she would be 17 or 18. Meanwhile, Nancy might be somewhere between 14 to 16. Since this is a Disney/family-friendly film, their interactions with him are innocent. But, the fact that two teenage girls would entertain the idea of falling in love with a grown man should not be in a family-friendly movie.

 

  • While Osh Popham is looking for a painting for give to Nancy’s family, he finds a picture of a scantily clad woman. When this painting is presented to the audience, jazz music can be heard in the background. If this film were created during the Breen Code era, this painting would not be shown on-screen. I don’t believe that the jazz music would be heard either.

 

Overall score: 6.3 out of 10

 

How are you enjoying my reviews for A Month Without the Code? Are you looking forward to my upcoming posts? Le me know in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: The Whales of August Review (A Month Without the Code — #3)

After one week of not posting any reviews for the A Month Without the Code and Summer Under the Stars Blogathons, I am back to talk about another Non-Code film! For the Summer Under the Stars Blogathon, I signed up by requesting Ann Sothern as one of the stars I would discuss. Like Melvyn Douglas, I was not familiar with who Ann Sothern was as an actress. Also, I had never heard of The Whales of August, the film I have chosen for this review, until about a month ago. So, I familiarized myself with who Ann was, as an actress, as well as the basic synopsis of the film. When I read about Ann on Turner Classic Movies’ (TCM’s) website, I learned that she had her own show called “The Ann Sothern Show”. When I think of actors or actresses that were given their own television show, I think of those who are known for their comedic talents, such as Dick Van Dyke and Carol Burnett. Since this is the first time I had ever seen Ann Sothern act, I’m not sure if her acting talents are more comedic or dramatic. I was curious to see if her television experience would help her performance in The Whales of August. The only way to answer this question is by reading my review!

The Whales of August poster
The Whales of August poster created by Nelson Entertainment and Alive Films. Image found at en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Whales_of_august_ver2.jpg

Things I liked about the film:

The acting: Even though she appeared in the film for only a limited amount of time, Ann Sothern gave a magnificent performance! Any time she appeared on-screen, she seemed to light up the room. Ann had great on-screen chemistry with all of her co-stars, helping to create an interesting dynamic and relationship between the characters. I was so happy whenever Tisha arrived at Sarah and Libby’s house, as she provided wise words and light-hearted moments. Vincent Price’s performance caught me off-guard because of how good it was! Before watching The Whales of August, I had never seen Vincent act on-screen. I was not only pleasantly surprised by how he was able to portray his character with a sense of charm and likability, but also by how well he was able to pull off a Russian accent! Despite the fact that this was a smaller cast, the acting was top-notch!

 

The cinematography: The Whales of August is one of the most well-shot films I’ve ever seen! There were some interesting ways in which scenes and images were captured. In the first few minutes of the film, Libby, Sarah, and Tisha are seen watching whales from the shore when they are younger. During this segment, the scenes are presented with a light brownish tint. This showed the audience that this part of the story took place in the early 1900s. With the incorporation of color to the film shortly after these scenes, it signifies that the story is now taking place in the present day. This kind of cinematography is not seen often in movies, so it was fascinating to see this transition between the time periods!

 

The messages and themes: Similar to films like I Never Sang for My Father, the messages and themes in The Whales of August are just as relevant today as they were in the mid to late ‘80s. While visiting Sarah and Libby’s house, Tisha reveals that she had her driver’s license suspended due to a fender bender. This aspect of the story represents a situation that some senior citizens face: the idea of voluntarily giving up driving privileges. Libby and Sarah’s discussions of mortality show the different mind-sets that elderly individuals may have. These messages and themes are included in the script as naturally as possible. It made the characters’ discussions and situations seem realistic.

Summer Under the Stars banner
Summer Under the Stars Blogathon banner created by Kristen from Journeys in Classic Film and Samantha from Musings of a Classic Film Addict. Image found at https://journeysinclassicfilm.com/2019/07/08/the-2019-tcm-summer-under-the-stars-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

A weak plot: When I read the synopsis for The Whales of August, I was led to believe that the story would be an exploration of the sisters’ relationship. In the film, however, the plot revolved around the days in the lives of Libby and Sarah. This made the story feel more like a “slice of life” tale than I had expected. There was no intrigue, which made it difficult for me to stay fully invested in what was happening on-screen. No subplots were found either. This made it difficult for any other story to carry the weight of the weak plot. A character-driven story shouldn’t be used as an excuse to not provide interesting elements to the narrative.

 

A misleading title: With a title like The Whales of August, featuring at least one whale in the film is expected. Whales were definitely mentioned by some of the characters. But no whales were physically seen. Because this movie is based on a play, I’m not sure if the whales’ absence was intended by the film’s creative team. By not showing any whales in the film, it kind of defeats the purpose of the title. I understand that there’s only so much room within a particular film’s budget. However, I do think there should have been at least one stock image of a whale in the movie.

 

Missed opportunities: In this narrative, there were a few story-telling opportunities that I thought were missed. During the film, Sarah was talking about selling her hand-crafted stuffed animals at a local fair. This is something that I was hoping to see because I wanted to witness how these characters interacted outside of the environment of Libby and Sarah’s home. Unfortunately, this fair was never featured in the movie or brought up again. Because the whole movie takes place inside and around this house, it limits which stories are told in this specific narrative. It also denies some characters the opportunity to serve the plot in a significant way.

A Month Without the Code banner
A Month Without the Code Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2019/07/31/announcing-amonthwithoutthecode65/.

My overall impression:

The one word I would use to describe The Whales of August is mundane. The story itself is not as intriguing or thought-provoking as I had hoped. Despite what the title says, there are no whales in this film. The movie as a whole isn’t the most memorable. However, there are a few aspects of the film that I liked. As I said in my review, the acting was top-notch! The scenery is absolutely breath-taking! It makes me want to visit Maine’s Cliff Island someday. While watching this film, I only found one factor that would have prevented this film from being approved by the Breen Code. That factor was the use of language, especially when it came to swearing. Because the majority of this language was spoken by only one character, Joshua Brackett, these words could easily be omitted from the script.

 

Overall score: 6 out of 10

 

How have you liked my blogathon reviews so far? Which one has been your favorite? Please tell me in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen

Take 3: I Never Sang for My Father Review (A Month Without the Code — #2)

So, I was, originally, not going to participate in the Summer Under the Stars Blogathon. This is because I already signed up for three other blogathons that are scheduled for August. But, when I discovered that there would be prizes involved, I was in it to win it! Since I’m also a participant in Pure Entertainment Preservation Society’s A Month Without the Code Blogathon, I will be incorporating the films I review for the Summer Under the Stars blogathon into my roster for the aforementioned blogathon. That way, I can help the Brannan sisters promote their message and try my best to win Kristen and Samantha’s blogathon! When I was looking through Turner Classic Movies’ (TCM’s) roster of films, I came across the movie, I Never Sang for My Father. It’s one that I had heard of, but had never seen. Before seeing this film, I was not familiar with who Melvyn Douglas was as an actor. So, I did some research on TCM’s website. The first thing I noticed was that he was a Broadway actor prior to appearing in films. This made me wonder if any of his on-stage talents were carried over to the screen. Keep reading my review of 1970’s I Never Sang for My Father in order to find out!

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I was going to use this film’s poster from Wikipedia, but I decided to take a screenshot of this poster instead. Screenshot taken by me, Sally Silverscreen.
Things I liked about the film:

The acting: As I’ve said in the introduction, I was not familiar with Melvyn Douglas before watching I Never Sang for My Father. This means that this is the first time I have ever seen him act. Despite this, I was very impressed with his performance in this film! His portrayal of Tom Garrison contained so much depth and emotion, that it was captivating to watch. He definitely stole the show in this movie! The other actors and actresses in I Never Sang for My Father brought a sense of realism to their performance, just like Melvyn did. One of them is Estelle Parsons, who portrays Gene’s sister, Alice. Whether it was the look in her eyes or the inflection of her voice, she always expressed her character’s concern and care with believability. Even though she wasn’t on screen for very long, she made a memorable impression with her performance!

 

Dynamics between the characters: Because every actor portrayed their characters with such realism, the interactions and dynamics between the characters were interesting to watch. Every time these characters communicated or spent time with each other, I always wondered what was about to happen next. That’s because it reflected how conversations, sometimes, work in real life. When it comes to interacting with someone, we can’t always predict how things will turn out. This was captured well in the film through the dynamics of the characters!

 

The messages and themes: Within this film, there were several messages and themes that are just as relevant today as they were in the early ‘70s. One of them was the care and well-being of elderly relatives. After their mother dies, Gene and Alice try to decide how to take care of their father. Several options are discussed, such as a live-in nurse and a nursing home. The way these ideas were expressed came across very realistically, like the situations themselves had come directly from real life. This made the interactions between the characters that much more interesting.

Summer Under the Stars banner
Summer Under the Stars Blogathon banner created by Kristen from Journeys in Classic Film and Samantha from Musings of a Classic Film Addict. Image found at https://journeysinclassicfilm.com/2019/07/08/the-2019-tcm-summer-under-the-stars-blogathon/.

What I didn’t like about the film:

The run-time: I Never Sang for My Father has a run-time of one hour and thirty-two minutes. But the movie itself felt like it was two plus hours. This is because some scenes were drawn out longer than they needed to be. One example is when Tom Garrison reads a letter to his children. It seems like scenes like this one were as long as they were for the sake of satisfying the run-time. But it was already at a reasonable length of one hour and thirty-two minutes. Another aspect of the film that seemed to satisfy the run-time was unnecessary subplots. The part of the story about Gene’s affair really didn’t seem to lead anywhere. It made me think that the narrative would have improved if that part had been omitted.

 

Telling, but not showing: In almost any cinematic story, an effective way to persuade an audience is by verbally and visually presenting an idea. In I Never Sang for My Father, there were many cases where ideas about Tom Garrison were verbally expressed. However, there was no visual evidence to support these claims. When Gene stated that he was physically abused by his father, the behaviors and actions of Tom Garrison that were shown on-screen didn’t show him being physically abusive toward anyone. If anything, the things that were said about Tom sounded like hearsay that couldn’t always be taken seriously.

 

An over-exaggerated relationship: A significant part of this story is about the strained relationship between Tom and Gene Garrison. The film’s synopsis makes their relationship seem worse than it really is. Sure, it isn’t pleasant. But it didn’t seem like anything out of the ordinary. Throughout the film, Tom comes across as a lonely senior citizen who just wants someone to talk to. Meanwhile, Gene is presented as, simply, annoyed by how often his father speaks. I feel this is the result of the screen-writing. Both Gene and Melvyn did the best they could with the material they were given. But, for characters and their relationships, they have to be well acted and written.

A Month Without the Code banner
A Month Without the Code Blogathon banner created by Tiffany and Rebekah Brannan from Pure Entertainment Preservation Society. Image found at https://pureentertainmentpreservationsociety.wordpress.com/2019/07/31/announcing-amonthwithoutthecode65/.

My overall impression:

Like I said in the introduction, I Never Sang for My Father is a movie that I’d heard of, but had never seen. I thought that the story would be deep and thought-provoking. But, now that I have seen the movie, I, honestly, think it’s just ok. The story itself was more straight forward than I had expected. I also thought that the plot was weaker than it could have been. However, one of the better parts of the film was, definitely, the acting! Melvyn Douglas’ performance was a highlight, bringing his character to life in such a captivating way. I’m glad that I gave I Never Sang for My Father a chance, as I was able to introduce myself to new actors and films! With several changes, this movie could have been approved by the Breen Code. These changes would be the following:

 

  • At the beginning of the movie, there is a couple that can be seen kissing passionately. Either the man or woman in the relationship would need to turn their head in order to block the kiss or the kiss itself would have to be cut shorter when it comes to length of time.

 

  • There are several instances when foul or suggestive language is used by the characters. One constant example is whenever someone swears. These words would need to be rewritten, with the screen-writer choosing words that are more appropriate.

 

  • As I mentioned in my review, there is a subplot about Gene having an affair. This part of the story would either get omitted or would be rewritten to make this relationship come across in a more subtle way. Any references to sex would be removed or rewritten to be as subtle in presentation as possible.

 

Overall score: 6 out of 10

 

Have you been keeping up with Turner Classic Movies’ “Summer Under the Stars” marathon? Which day of the marathon are you excited for? Share your thoughts in the comment section!

 

Have fun at the movies!

Sally Silverscreen